It’s Time To Rethink Retirement
Planning retirement from a purely financial perspective doesn’t work. Retirees regularly run out of money well before they die and increasingly face physical and mental health problems. Mike Middleton, founder of Pro-Vision Lifestyles, explains why a more holistic approach is necessary. One that places lifestyle choices at the centre of planning.
The concept of retirement dates back to 19th Century Germany, when it was conceived as a response to youth unemployment. Depressingly, thinking around the subject has barely progressed since. We still tend to think of retirement in largely financial terms, which for many, won’t lead to happiness. Just as retirement’s past is found in a different country, its future is equally foreign and unknown. Fresh thinking is required.
For the first time since the 1930s, people in the UK are having to wait beyond their 65th birthday before they can claim their state pension. As the pension age rises many face growing uncertainty over how to manage increased longevity, so support in making conscious choices on how we want to live becomes ever more important.
This isn’t scaremongering. The retirement crisis is real in both financial and wellbeing terms. Many retiring now will face another 30 years of life, how we choose to spend it has a large impact on whether these years are a blessing or a curse.
The key to happiness and wellbeing in retirement are the same as in earlier life; remain physically active, continue to learn, have a sense of purpose, and build and maintain strong social networks.
Perhaps it’s this lack of comprehension that stops retirement from being the adventure it should be. Studies have shown that retirement without a plan increases your risk of depression by up to 40%. It needn’t be this way. People could be using this period of their life to make new friends, visit family, dedicate time to previously ignored hobbies, learn new skills, and lead a stimulating life after decades of hard work. It should be exciting and liberating.
These upsides of retirement are regularly forgotten. We tend to view retirement through a prism of negativity that focuses on money. Fulfilment in later life is about much more than just money. Days are still 24 hours long and with, potentially, many years ahead there is a lot of time to fill, and no time to waste. Some new activities are time bound, and many waste the first few years of retirement working out what they really want to do, and sometimes by then it’s too late.
Overall life expectancy is rising faster than healthy life expectancy, the disability-free life years at age 65 in England is 9.9 years (ONS, 2018). Something needs to change in how we recognise, plan for and manage this stage of our life.
A fundamental change of retirement preparation mindset is required.
Instead of thinking “I need to save towards some arbitrary, unrealistic lump sum, and then hoard it until I die”, people need to think about and plan how they want to spend their later years. What type of life do they need to be happy as a retiree? How are they going to fill their time? To do this we have to make conscious decisions on the important elements of how we wish to live. We can then work out how much that costs and save enough to budget for that – no matter how extravagant or modest that may be.
Increasing numbers of people have concluded that it makes sense to use retirement activities as the basis to understanding financial requirements, rather than the other way around. Individuals need professional support to enable them to make their right choices, we only have one shot so it’s important to get it right. This allows financial and other advice to work to maximum effect.
By adopting a different approach and placing individual retirement aspirations at the heart of any decision-making process, excitement can be injected into retirement and long-term happiness can become more likely. The time for individuals to take their futures seriously is now.